Northwestern ranked as top medium-sized school contributing to TFA corps

Catie L'Heureux, Reporter

By their sixth week of school, third graders at Achievement First Bushwick Elementary School in Brooklyn have already learned the Northwestern fight song.

There, Drew Gannon (Medill ’12) is teaching science and social studies as one of 63 graduates from NU’s class of 2012 in a classroom with Teach For America this year.

This year, NU ranked as the top medium-sized school to send graduating seniors to the TFA 2012 corps, according to the fifth annual rankings of colleges and universities released Sept. 5. Harvard University, Georgetown University, Boston College, University of Pennsylvania and Tulane University were other top-ranked schools in the same category of universities with 3,000 to 9,999 undergraduates.

NU also placed seventh out of more than 1,500 colleges and universities, regardless of size. Gaby Barahona, regional communications manager at TFA, highlighted key qualities that NU students bring to the program.

“It’s mainly that we’re looking for candidates that have a lot of leadership skills, that persevere through challenges, that are committed to our mission,” she said. “I think that when you look at Northwestern and just the caliber of students that go through the undergraduate school, you find a lot of those qualities in your seniors, which is why we continue to recruit and select candidates from Northwestern.”

Founded in 1990, TFA focuses on resolving educational inequity in the U.S. and recruits corps members to commit to two years of teaching in high-need urban and rural public schools. Barahona said the 63 graduates from NU’s class of 2012 are part of a group of more than 479 NU alumni who have participated in the program.

Selected out of 48,000 applicants in the 2012 selection process, the 5,800 new corps members represent one of the most diverse classes in TFA history, Barahona said. Of the incoming corps members, 23 percent were the first in their families to attend college, 38 percent
are people of color and 35 percent received Pell grants. After participating in a five-week
summer training program, they joined more than 4,200 other TFA teachers to work in schools in 46
regions throughout the U.S. this year.

Eliza McNabb (WCAS ’10), Chicago recruitment manager at TFA, highlighted a connection between the TFA mission to expand educational opportunities for poverty-stricken children and the desire of many NU students to make a difference as one of the reasons for NU’s high ranking as a contributing school.

“Teach for America’s mission really aligns with Northwestern students because 
Northwestern students are so socially aware and they are such driven people who really 
want to make an impact, and Teach for America gives them an opportunity to do that,” 
she said. “Northwestern and Teach for America have had a really wonderful relationship
 for a very long time and we’ve always gotten a number of wonderful corps members 
from Northwestern, so it’s exciting to see that it’s still going strong.”

McNabb also said campaign strategies of holding alumni panels and information sessions on campus helped attract more NU students to apply to the 2012 corps last year. TFA will continue to use this strategy to recruit NU students for 2013, she added.

“The primary thing that we’re focusing on is finding people who are passionate about
 this work and getting people engaged in the conversation about educational inequity,”
she said.

McNabb said she wanted students to understand the different communities that college students come from. She said she wants “people to be angry and work to end that injustice and disparity” between the 80 percent of college students that come from high-income communities and 8 percent that come from low-income communities.

Gannon, who worked as a campus campaign coordinator during her time at NU, said she is glad to be helping students through her work with TFA.

“I see my friends who are doing any number of things, including going into journalism, which is what I ultimately want to go back to,” she said. “But this is such an irreplaceable experience that I’m so grateful and excited to be a part of.”